wot-replays.org: Shutting down 1st of September
The title of this post pretty much says it all - but I wanted to clarify the reason(s) and add some additional information. Sit back, it's a long post. I'll start it off with the timeline of things and what the plans are:
So yes, the 1st of September I'm shutting down wot-replays.org. It's been fun, but it no longer is. Replay uploading has already been disabled due to the 0.7.5 changes, and will remain disabled. Existing replays are still available, and can be downloaded up to the 1st of September.
On the 1st, the website itself will be taken down, and all data will be sent to that great bitbucket in the sky in the next few days.
Selling, buying, sharing
I've had a few offers in the past from people that wanted to buy the site, and one in particular looked pretty good. I still think it's pretty good, and I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint the gentleman who made the offer, but having pondered things I don't feel like I want to sell this site. I've put too much effort into it, and it's turned into my little baby - I don't want to see it in someone elses' hands, and to be honest I don't want to be involved in anything that means dealing with Wargaming and their attitude.
Some people have also emailed me asking if I wanted to share the data I have extracted from the replays. The answer to that one is "no, I won't". People who uploaded the replays might not want it shared, and I can't get permission from every last uploader. Beyond that I feel that it's not my data to share in the first place.
And sorry, I'm also keeping the domain name for the next 6 months, after which it will be released to the general public again because I won't be renewing it.
So why am I doing this (long, skip it if you want to read my "last words")
I've been playing World of Tanks since the late stages of closed beta, not always on the same account, mind you, but I've been a player since, well, the early stages. Over that time, I've gotten more disillusioned with the game.
Actually, it's not as much the game as it is Wargaming. The game itself is actually quite good, but the company behind it is not. Community issues go unhandled, the EU community is pretty much ignored, and the updates being put out lately focus more on adding new content and premium tanks (in order to boost player numbers and premium spending), and not on bug fixes for issues that have been reported and known since beta.
I started wot-replays as a hobby project, a thing to do in my "off" time, and a thing to do "to see if I could". It turned out for some reason that people liked what I was doing, and it grew into something bigger than I really counted on. Over the past half year I've also learned more about the replay file format than I really wanted to, up to and including a data disclosure vulnerability that I reported well over two months ago. Fun fact: it hasn't been fixed in the latest update. This, along with the total quiet from Wargaming about this issue is part of the reason I'm shutting down. I've not got faith in Wargaming any longer. The vulnerability wasn't super serious, but their treatment of it makes me uncomfortable. If they treat a small vulnerability like this, what happens when there's a big vulnerability? Chances are, the same will happen: nothing.
Then there's the difficulty of keeping up with the changes Wargaming makes to replay files; between 0.7.1 and 0.7.2 there was a massive one, and between 0.7.2 and 0.7.3 up to 0.7.4 small things kept changing, got added, or removed. Things that didn't need removing got axed from the data - most notably between 0.7.3 and 0.7.4 the arena ID got removed, which is the one and only quick way of finding related replays.
In the 0.7.5 update, Wargaming made a truly amateurish mistake. Maps are named "xx_yyyyy" where xx is a number, and yyyy is a short name. An example is "01_karelia" for Karelia, or (from the top of my head) "49_north_america" for Live Oaks.
The most recent map additions feature two maps, one of which happens to be named "51_north_america". It's the Sea Port one (and the 51 isn't right either, it's got a different ID but hey...). Now, up to version 0.7.4, maps were recorded in the replay file without their numerical ID. So you'd just get "karelia" or "north_america". Makes perfect sense to record it that way really, since, after all, nobody would be silly enough to use duplicate map names, right?
Wrong. Wargaming did. And instead of fixing it by just renaming the map to "sea_port" or something, they now record the map in a replay file with the ID number. This alone pretty much breaks the site, the parser gets it out just fine, but the entire underlying code on the site assumes that a map has no numerical ID.
I could go two ways in fixing it, one is to have a double set of map names and such stored, so that "karelia" and "01_karelia" result in the same data, and I can still use "karelia" in the URL to link to a map (e.g. /maps/karelia). This leads to a problem when you go to "/maps/north_america" since there are two. It also meant having to re-do all the statistics code - all this just to support older replay files.
The cheap option would be to just leave the code as-is, remove all pre-0.7.5 replays, and only allow people to upload 0.7.5 and newer replays. I felt that wasn't really an option either. Now having gone through the code and fixing things up so old map names come out in the "new" style, I figured I'd check and see if that vulnerability I reported was fixed. It wasn't, as I already mentioned. That sort of put me on the track to "I'm done with this".
Then I heard that Wargaming took over BigWorld Pty. This is the company that produces the BigWorld engine, which is marketed as "the" MMO middleware. It is, on the surface, a pretty nice product. Deep down though, it is a royal mess. I've worked with the BigWorld engine in the past, and it's obvious that parts of the engine (notably the client end) are not as good as they're made out to be. The server end of the BigWorld product, on the other hand, is beautifully done. The client, well, no multi-core support, it doesn't do DX11 or DX10 (actually, it does DX10 by now, it was added about 2 years after DX10 released), and has memory handling problems.
BigWorld, as a company, also has much the same attitude as Wargaming. I once had to inquire to the cost of licensing and their website at that point literally said that the engine would cost "several hundreds of thousands of dollars", and that one had to prove that you had this sort of money lying around before licensing inquiries would even be answered. Attitude much, right? That really hasn't changed all that much. What worries me is combining an engine that's known to be "not so good" with Wargaming's "don't care" attitude is just going to lead to bigger and "better" bugs. That made me sit and think for a while, and I had to ask myself a few questions...
- Is it worth running a fansite for a game that you no longer play? Because I stopped playing WoT a month ago, and haven't logged in since then.
- Is it worth running a fansite for a game whose developer you've totally lost faith in?
- Is it worth spending the (now) $60 a month for the hosting for said fansite, when the answer to the earlier 2 questions is "no, not really"?
I'd like to note that in the give or take 6 months this site has been running, the total cost of it all has been around the $250 mark. In that time, I have received one donation, of $5. I wasn't aiming to have my server bills paid fully with donations, but lately it's gotten clear that while some people appreciate the work that goes into the site, a lot of people take it's existance for granted. This is not a gripe towards anyone that wanted to donate but hasn't got the funds, or the paypal account, but it's one of those facts of life that at some point, hobbies start getting expensive.
The real question at that point became:
"Is it worth spending money on a hobby you no longer enjoy?" - because, I do enjoy programming, but I no longer enjoy the 4 hours of work that go into importing an update, the additional hours of work that go in to finding new vehicle images and icons, and new map icons and such things, and the work that goes in to making sure the site works with older replays.
And the answer was "no, it's not worth it".
I would like to thank everyone that has uploaded a replay, and especially those early adopters who not only uploaded replays but also spread the word. I can see how this might come as a shock or disappointment, but unfortunately it's the way the cookie crumbled. I'd also like to thank our one and only donator - he knows who he is - because, well, reasons.
It's been a fun ride over the past 6 months, but unfortunately the fun was removed from the ride by the incompetent company developing the game.
As always, questions, comments are welcome, and can be posted here or emailed to scrambled(at)xirinet.com - I'll get to them eventually!